The Doha Metro

With the new Metro system up and running in Qatar, I thought it was about time to try it out. When I moved here 3+ years ago, there wasn’t an established transportation system but the country had began building one. Roads and roundabouts were slowly closing in preparation for the new metro and in conjunction with the 2022 World Cup stadiums being built all over. The Metro is a component of the larger Rail System being built. The transit system became operational in May. The Red, Blue and Gold lines are now open and operating.

We decided to take the metro from our residence to the Flower Festival in Souq Waqif. A major convenience to the metro is it’s MetroLink. It is a free service feeder bus that runs daily and provides first and last mile connectivity to Qatar Rail customers within a 2-5 km radius of the Doha metro stations- https://www.qr.com.qa/metrolink. This is the website where you can find out times, locations and schedules for the Metrolink.

We live in Barwa City and there are a few Metrolink bus stops within our community. We only had to walk about 2 minutes to the nearest stop and it was on time.

The Metrolink took us to the Free Zone station which is between Al-Thumama and Al Wakrah. Once there we were able to purchase our tickets. A single standard ticket cost 2 riyals about $0.55 usd; a day pass cost 6 riyals=$1.60 usd, which is a hell of lot cheaper than a day pass on Septa in Philly which will set you back $9.00 usd.

When you enter the station at the Free Zone, there is a vending machine and map. You have to take an escalator or elevator upstairs, then walk across the bridge that takes you over the highway, then walk back down another escalator to purchase your ticket. Once the ticket is purchased, you go back up another escalator and walk to the train door. Seems like a lot of up and down, up and down, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for this extra time that will be spent just getting to the train. Fortunately the trains run pretty regularly and there are signs, maps and assistants all over to help.

We had to take the Metro Red Line to Msheireb Interchange station where we transferred to the Gold Line and got off at the Souq. Of course you have to do some more up, down walking to actually get to the Souq. There are several exits that take you up to the Souq but I think we walked out of the wrong one.

After about 45 minutes, from our home in Barwa, we made it to the flower festival.

Last words about the Metro:

It is clean.

Timely, however give yourself a few extra minutes to account for the extra walking.

Official Website https://www.qr.com.qa/home

There is an app for that

There are three different sections on the train cars: standard and family class- cost the same, Gold club (a single journey cost 10 riyals and a day pass cost 30 riyals)

The train cars are small and can get crowded. If you can afford it opt for the gold club to avoid crowds and guarantee yourself a good seat-in the front of the train with a conductors view, private and enclosed.

Please watch your kids.

Stand clear of the doors and let people off of the train before you try to rush on.

Get onto the train quickly as the doors do not wait and will try to crush you.

Clean up behind yourself.

Be careful if you are wearing a thobe or abaya or any other long clothing so that your clothes do not get caught in the escalator or metro doors.

Cruising the Aegion Sea on Royal Caribbean- Greece, Montenegro and Croatia

It’s been over 6 months since my cruise on June 15, 2019. (Sometimes I like to wait to blog about trips which gives me the opportunity go back down memory lane and relive the experiences all over again). The cruise was a part of my “Visiting Italy: A Dream Come True” trip, except the cruise took us to 3 other European Countries: Croatia, Montenegro and Greece. We embarked from Venice on Royal Caribbean’s-(RC) Rhapsody of the Seas ship.

The Room

A little over a month before sailing, I received an email from RC inviting me to participate in the RoyalUp program, where you can bid on an upgraded stateroom for your sailing. Since this was a part of a Dream Come True Summer vacation for me I definitely was interested in going all out, so of course I put in a bid and a month later I received the good news that our bid had been accepted and our room had been upgraded to a Junior Suite. I was very happy about this because our original stateroom was on deck 2 and I prefer to be on a higher deck. In my opinion the lower the deck the more waves you feel. I’m pretty sure I overpaid for this Suite but I had no regrets especially after seeing it and enjoying it for 7 days. Suites are definitely the way to go on cruises. I give the suite an 8 out of 10. In this area- RC takes the crown. However, it is the only cruise line that I’ve stayed in a suite so far.

Our Upgraded Stateroom- Junior Suite

Good Information to Know

‘The Key’: Darryl purchased this added amenity for us which gave us some exclusive benefits: Early drop off and delivery of all of our luggage including carry-on, an exclusive lunch at Chops Grille on boarding day, 1-device each internet usage, private hours at ship activities on port days, priority debarkation and tender service from ship to shore and a la carte breakfast in the Giovanni’s Table on departure day. The Key is worth it.

Alcohol: You can take alcohol on board. Each stateroom may bring up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne on boarding day. You can get creative and carry on additional alcohol in smuggle bottles but that would be illegal. You could also spend a few hundred dollars and buy the alcohol package legally. A deluxe beverage package, including alcohol, could run you any where from $50-90 per day per person. Sometimes they run BOGO specials. We did not purchase a beverage package. You can take on-alcoholic beverages on board as well but they may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. We purchased water on a couple of the ports and were allowed to bring them onboard. In this area Norwegian takes the crown because alcohol was included in our cruise to Cuba.

The Food

Like other cruises food is inclusive. I found the buffet to be pretty good and with many choices for a regular person. For this vegan though, things were a little rough. I spoke to several of the executive chefs and food managers about my preferences and they tried their best to accommodate me but when your kitchen staff is not well trained it is only so much you can do. The service got better as the cruise went on but I pretty much knew I would just have to eat some seafood. I find it such a money grab that the other restaurant’s, that are not included, food is significantly of better quality. For instance, the exclusive lunch at Chops Restaurant, that we got with ‘the Key’, was very good and the one night we splurged and ate at Izumi Japanese restaurant we were blown away by how delicious the food was. I do have to mention other cruise lines that I’ve been on have more late night food options than Royal Caribbean does. It was difficult to find food after 10 pm and almost impossible after midnight especially for a semi-vegan. I would give the food a 6 out of 10. In the area of food and service- Norwegian takes the crown. The attention they gave to me in ensuring I still enjoyed my food as a vegan was amazing. Also I never had to remind the kitchen staff.

Activities

Let me first say, my husband and I do not mind making fools out of ourselves when having a good time. We are very competitive and love a good game. If you do not have fun on cruise ships you are just BORING. Now that, that is out of the way, I found RC’s activities to be very safe, not Risque enough and I found the shows to be lackluster. However, when Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery are on board we always find some fun. The most fun activities hands down were: The 70’s Disco Inferno Street Party, Battle of the Sexes and The Sexiest Man on Board. I may be a little biased because we participated in these. We called ahead of the cruise to find out about the theme nights and the only one that the CSR was sure on was the 70’s Party so we were prepared for that one. Our party of 4 were the only ones properly prepared for this party outside of the crew. We were dressed in our 70’s clothes and afros and cut the rug. We stole the show. In the Battle of the Sexes game show the women won and of course Darryl and I were right in the thick of it all, busting balloons in awkward, sexual positions and getting the crowds applause. I didn’t give my approval for Darryl to participate in the Sexiest Man on Board game after several women came up to him asking and after I became a judge he couldn’t participate anyway lol. I had the punch lines and helped to make the game exciting. Outside of these games the White Night party was fun as well as the International Crew Parade of Flags. I thought the Newlywed game was kind of boring and I don’t think kids should have been allowed in the room. I prefer the All adult crowd games. (I’m looking into the all adult cruise next). The shows on RC were boring and very cheap. I give the activities and shows a 6 out of 10. In this area- Carnival Cruise Line takes the crown; their adult only game show is one not to be missed.

On one of our at sea days, there was a time change and we missed our sushi cooking class. RC was very accommodating and credited our account. On another sea day we purchased the Bottomless Galley Brunch, where we toured the ship galley-kitchen area, had a nice meal and drank unlimited champagne and mimosa. We were even allowed to take a bottle with us to our room. Needless to say, we didn’t do much else that day.

Ports of Call

Our first Port of call was on Fathers’ day and was in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Darryl and I are big Game of Throne fans so we booked an excursion through trip advisor to travel where some scenes from GOT was filmed. It was so exciting seeing this country that GOT basically put on the map and hearing facts about things that occurred during the filming. The most exciting parts were seeing where the ‘Walk of Shame’ took place and comparing the actual location to the scene and hearing that the place is often policed because many people try to reenact the scene of Cersei doing the walk of shame naked. The tour guid also had some props that we used to reenact some scenes.

The next Port of Call was to Kotor, Montenegro. This port was breathtaking. At first all you see is mountains, then you sail inwards and see this hidden island nestled in between them. You must tender to this port- take a smaller boat from the cruise ship to land. We booked the Blue Cave Speed Boat Adventure excursion through RC for this port. We saw caves where submarines were once hidden along the way. There was a small entryway into the cave and cold blue waters. We all climbed out of the boat for a short swim in the grotto. We all wished we could spend more time there but the cave had to be shared with other cave goers. After the cave we went to a beach where we got some food and a few beers. The sun was bright and the beach too rocky to swim but we did not let that keep us from enjoying this beautiful place.

Santorini was our third port of call. We opted to explore this country on our own since it was so pretty and none of the ship excursions appealed to us. This port was also tendered and once we arrived at port we had to take a tram car up the mountain to reach Santorini town. We walked around in and out of shops checking out the merchandise and Roman attire. I found Santorini to be quite expensive but picturesque. If I go again, I will check out trip advisor for some excursions or rent a 4X4 for the day from one of the many shops to see more of the country.

The last port of call was Katakolon, Greece. We booked an excursion with RC to visit Ancient Olympia and Kourouta Beach. We ran where the old olympic games took place and listened to how the old Romans competed in their birthday suits. We saw where they still light the torch to kick off the olympic games. Then we cooled off in the refreshing waters at the beach.

We had a really good time on this cruise and met some very nice people from as far as Australia. RC does try to nickel and dime you for everything and they push the alcohol package big time. Fortunately for us, we had enough of our own alcohol that we only purchased a few beers here and there- we’re not big drinkers. They even charge for fitness classes. I wish the food quality was the same across the board and that more options for eating were available late hours. They can make small improvement like adding popcorn for movie nights. Also they have to get better prepared in serving vegans as more and more people are turning to plant based diets. The pool was too small and there needs to be more adult only options. Highlights for me were the check in and check out procedures, much more efficient than Norwegian, housekeeping was wonderful, the cookies were good lol, the suite was a great size, ‘the key’- great add on, the amount of activities, movies under the stars, staff were nice, bottomless brunch, ports of call and friendships we made.

Sunrise over the Aegion Sea